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Many people go through drastic changes in their
lives trying to get away from their past when they have haunting memories
caused from a tragedy or a past relationship. We go to great lengths to attempt
to change or forget what has happened before, but it always seems to fail
because our minds cannot simply forget these events that rip and tear at us
from the inside. In Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, Kafka explores the
absurdity of life through Gregor’s transformation as he struggles with himself
and the outside world around him. In this story Kafka writes about a dream that
he had years earlier. He tells the story just as the dream occurs and shows how
one’s troubles can push them so far these influences will affect the people who
love them the most. Kafka first begins his absurd writings with aspects of
dreams or nightmares that cause him great hurt, but makes them think about and
learn from the dreams’ hidden meanings. Kafka’s stories have often been
compared to dreams or nightmares, but the analogy has seldom been elaborated. Dreams
and nightmares represent absurdity or the unrealistic aspects and desires of
the human mind. Kafka shows how people’s lives can be based on something
completely unreal and not focused on any of the actual important opportunities
that people allow to pass right by them. Waking and finding himself
supernaturally, unmistakably, and disgustingly transformed, Gregor shows
concern only with the weather, his job, the train he missed, and the best
method of getting out of bed. In other words, he automatically displaces his
attention on to inessentials, on to outlying details of his situation,
distributing and reducing his manifest emotion
accordingly. Kafka displays the way the human mind avoids the important
thoughts if they are hurtful or damaging to the normal routine of the daily
lifestyle. Gregor focuses on these small problems instead of the most important
problem, that he has been transformed into a measly bug. This extraordinary
change begins to affect the ones around him quickly and harshly. Gregor’s
family is greatly affected by his metamorphosis and struggles to try and deal
with the situation calmly. Each of the family members deals with
the situation much differently than the next because each of them looks at the
circumstances in different ways. The mother represents the possibility of
salvation, in this case salvation from writing. She holds out the hope that
Gregor as the monstrous bug, as the distorted metaphor, the unrepresentable can
still exercise a useful and helpful activity within the realms of the family
and language. She tries to treat Gregor the monster as if he were nothing but
her son opposes emptying his room of furniture for fear that he will miss it.

However, she cannot bear to look at him, at his monstrosity, cannot bear to see
him as he is. Gregor’s mother obviously suffers from Gregor’s transformation
and attempts to deal with the situation with the best of her abilities. She
only makes Gregor’s attempt to escape worse because it is not working as he
planned and he is greatly affected by her disgust of his changes. Gregor’s
sister seems to accept his transformation easier than his mother. This is true
because his sister is less mature and does not see it as such a tragedy as a
more mature adult would. His sister does not realize the reality so she treats
him the same as she had before. As the novel progresses, Gregor further
troubles his whole family with his new disgusting form. Gregor attempts to
become closer with his sister to get a sense of normalcy. “He would never
let her out of his room, at least, not so long as he lived; his frightful
appearance would become, for the first time, useful to him; he would watch all
the doors of his room at once and spit at intruders” (Kafka 131). Gregor
is in need of attention or connection with others so desperately that he keeps
his sister in his room for long stretches of time. As Kafka says, Gregor’s
disgusting features finally become useful to him which shows he is beginning to
adapt to his new form. Since his attempts at escaping life failed he has to
find new ways to live with what he is given. He is too ugly to be seen in the
outside world so he uses his sister to get this so desired connection. Gregor
is becoming completely separated from his family. When his cleanliness is gone
he begins to feel alone and worthless because he has been rejected by the only
people left that love him. These events destroy any chance of Gregor having any
happiness when he is surrounded by his confused and hurt family. His father
threatens him, then makes him bleed by roughly pushing his through the narrow
door to his room and finally permanently cripples him by embedding an apple in
his back. The wound in his back prevents Gregor from ever cleaning himself and
it deprives him of the only means he had of being presentable to the household.

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Gregor’s father has betrayed Gregor, making his transformation even more
painful and his struggle harder. The family does not know how to react with
Gregor’s transformation. His father responds with anger and physically injures
Gregor, pushing him further into depression. Pushing Gregor through the narrow
doorway symbolizes Gregor being backed into a corner, getting more and more
cramped with every hurtful act his family bestows upon him because of the pain
his father causes him, Gregor wishes he could get away from everything that
causes him hurt, which is the entire world. Through Kafka’s dream we see how
his life has been full of struggle with his family and he expresses it through
Gregor. He puts Gregor in his own shoes and shows how he is treated and how he
feels about it. Now that he has been completely rejected from his family,
Gregor has to make a very important decision and the choice he makes may change
his life forever. Kafka’s works contain many hidden meanings and links to many
occurrences that we would not see every day and he shows how he would deal with
them in his writings. This allows our imaginations to have endless ideas about
Kafka’s stories. The Metamorphosis reflects this writing style directly. Kafka
shows this style for readers to wonder of the absurdities that life brings upon
us. It makes the reader think about the circumstances and what they would do if
it happened to them. As the novel progresses Kafka begins to explain Gregor’s
room to give the reader a good visual display of its layout and everything in
his room has significance to the story. Slowly Gregor’s room emerges into view.

Gregor’s room shows his containment and it expresses the ways that the outside
world seems to tease him more and more until he cannot stand it anymore. The
hospital shows where Gregor really should be spending his time instead of
staying shut in his room, but his embarrassment is too much for him to overcome
and it seems he will never get help. In addition to Gregor’s physical transformation,
his personal habits begin to change. Showing that Gregor has actually died
inside and the insect is what is left of his soul. He can now only eat decayed
food such as human beings find disgusting. “A piece of cheese that Gregor would
have called uneatable two days ago” (Kafka 32). He is now less susceptible to
pain and injury as he notices with exquisite innocence. When Gregor begins to
dislike regular human food and gets a taste for rotting or decaying food, other
people would find him to be even more disgusting. He is being rejected more each
day because of his different life. The transformation of Gregor Samsa into a
monstrous insect is representative in that it is as much a deferral as it is an
annunciation of his death. Gregor has not realized it yet, but the transformation
has brought death to his true form and has taken over his entire life. This has
caused not only his death, but his family’s death as well. Gregor begins to
lose control of his self as the torture from his transformation becomes
unbearable. He thinks of suicide as an escape. He could end his life at any
moment because of the struggles he is put through. When he is seen by the
lodgers, they become afraid and leave without paying. Gregor’s family decides
he is not Gregor at all, this but something less than human. “Gregor
scooted away, stopping only when the father halted, and skittering forward
again the instant the father moved. In this way they circled the room several
times with nothing decisive happening; in fact, because of its slow tempo, the
whole business did not even resemble a chase” (Kafka 163). As Gregor runs
away from his problems by trying to escape life itself, by running from his
father. Gregor’s father is one of his problems that lead to his hate he has for
his entire life. The struggle is too great for him to overcome so he continues
to run from his father and his own life. “Gregor is unable to control the
punishment; his many legs, wretchedly thin, … dance helplessly before his
eyes” (Kafka 117). “If he tried to bend a leg, it first straightened out; and
if he finally succeeded in taking charge of it, the other legs meanwhile all
kept carrying on, as if emancipated, in extreme and painful agitation” (Kafka
122). This may regret the lack of power Gregor has over his punishment, a fact
of every human being’s existence. Try as we may, we cannot control the
circumstances under which we are born, and in this life we cannot control other
people’s actions. At the end of the novel, Gregor retreats to his room where he
struggles to move but fails. He becomes so sad from the comments from his
family, he has trouble keeping control of his body. When Gregor begins to lose
control he begins thinking about how he can solve his problems and decides that
he should not completely give up hope just yet, but his hope is in something
most people would not expect. We order our lives in a fashion we are pleased
with, but the people around us interfere, and they affect our plans and
progress in life. This was certainly the case for Franz Kafka. He wished to
write and satisfy the urge he felt to his art. However, his family, especially
his father, would interfere.

In Kafka’s The
Metamorphosis, he takes his own experiences and shows them through Gregor’s
transformation. In this novel he has many hidden truths that readers will find
after reading the story several times. With life’s absurd occurrences and
experiences, surprises will never be absent from people’s life. These surprises
may not always be positive, but everything cannot be to people’s liking. The
absurdity of life has endless possibilities that Kafka and many other authors
will continue to discover and write about for others to enjoy and learn.

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